Vanguard (Lagos)

18 November 2012

Nigeria: My Vision Is to Awaken Society's Sensibility to Barbarities in the Niger Delta - Enewaridideke

interview

Ekanpou Enewaridideke is a vociferous writer and a committed apostle of the Niger Delta struggle for self determination. As a writer, he has directed his huge creative talent to the exploration of the various strands of alleged injustices meted against his poorly developed but oil rich region. He has carried out this campaign through the genres of prose fiction, poetry and lately, drama. Recently, he published his award winning drama, The Wanted Man in Camp Four, which explores the Niger Delta Youths armed struggle against the State and multinational oil prospecting companies. In this interview, the literary activist talks about his dramatic vision and how he has appropriated this vision around his Ijaw mythological world view.

How can you explain the Revolutionary vision embodied in your play, The Wanted Man in Camp Four?

For a people preternaturally exploited, degraded, devastated but desirous of return to their glorious space designed for them from the cradle, it is natural that some form of metamorphosis, transmogrification revolutionally achievable must claim the historical space and assert itself as a PROGRESSIVE CATHARSIS for all the hitherto inherent wrongs, misconceptions, inhibitions, dislocation, devaluation, barbarities and indignities.

From the blurb of the play, it is gathered that your mission as a playwright is to explore the Niger Delta Struggle through the activities of the armed activist. This dramatic focus as explained, is on the Niger Delta. But in the course of the dialogue between Polo, the Goc, the negotiators for the abducted expatriates, the argument is further reduced to Ijaw struggle. How can you explain this dramatic revision?

..the detructible sustainability of my vision in the exploration of the Niger Delta struggle through the activities of armed activist, the movement between and across both specific and general territories is both an artistic and historical necessity and reality. The vision loses its authentic conceptual orbit without this movement across the two territories figuratively evoked or implied here.

The Niger Delta is home to multitudinous nationalities defined by their own treasured codes of existence. Among the various nationalities, a particular ethnic nationality claims the revolutionary task to purge itself of deprivation which has become the archetypal character in the entire Niger Delta region.

Polo fearlessly wears the revolutionary garment and Polo is an Ijaw by extraction. Though the play centres on the Niger Delta struggle, for the purpose of historical authenticity and artistic realism, the personality and the nationality that lead the Niger Delta struggle must be clearly identified and artistically foregrounded.

Identifying Polo as the incarnation of the Niger Delta struggle does not give my vision a questionable reductionist colour but rather it rightly dignifies, deifies, beatifies and celebrates the heroism of Polo, the armed activist who is artistically located as an Ijaw man in my play as a solid platform for reproduction of many POLOS whenever the Federal Government of Gogi is gripped by that psychopathic fever of destruction, recession and regression to the inglorious days.

Don't you think that your dramatic effort is self-contradictory when viewed from the dialogue among Polo, his parents Dapolo and Mapolo and the boys when he tries to explain to them that the option for armed struggle is as a result of the failure of intellectual struggle?

Polo's pronouncement that his recourse to the armed struggle owes its indebtedness to the failure of the intellectual struggle is contextual and therefore explicable. The intellectual struggle, which is the first phase of the Niger Delta struggle, reawakens Polo to the realities in his environment.

This nourishment forms the breeding ground for the germination of Polo's revolutionary vision as he becomes imbued with the capability to locate his rights and entitlements in the emerging drama of deprivation in his oil-rich territory. In the provision of the diet of awareness-nourishment, the intellectual struggle assumes noble and laudable colour of success, but in the area of production of corresponding degree of responsiveness and sensitivity to the practical dictates of the Niger Delta Struggle, the intellectual struggle unhesitatingly takes a flight to the sandbank of failure on brittle wings.

It is the inclination of the intellectual struggle towards the production and perpetuation of result-vacuum continuum that Polo's armed struggle becomes a preferred practical route. This result-vacuum continuum credited to the intellectual struggle does not deprive it of its indestructible glorious historical space in the Niger Delta Struggle.

The intellectual struggle is amoebic and timeless in look. The intellectual struggle can feature in any chosen part of a general struggle. It can feature in the beginning, in the middle and in the end. In case of the Niger Delta struggle, the intellectual struggle features in the beginning and disappears, and then features alongside the armed struggle and then features stubbornly after the homeward sail of the armed struggle. Self-contradiction has no place in my dramatic efforts.

if your position is not contradictory, how would you explain your intervention as a literary playwright?

Man-made undulations created and sadistically perpetuated by revolting institutions provoke a revolutionary illumination. It is the responsibility of artists to chronicle the successes and the failures of revolutionary illumination credited to extraordinary beings fired by a zeal to reform their societies in positive dimensions no matter the questionability of the preferred mechanism and reawaken mankind to their barbarities, obscenities and commendable ethos or codes of peaceful co-existence.

Upon this platform, man is brought back to the path of sanity where valuable lessons are internalised for a better society. As a playwright I consider it my sacred responsibility to awaken the societies to the barbarities that once accompany the Niger Delta Struggle bearing in mind the wilful causative agents so that they can be shocked into transformation and stave off re-occurrence.

My intervention as a playwright is still within the province of the intellectual struggle which is timeless and endless unlike the armed

struggle which has a clear destination and time. The writer takes up emerging issues in their varying colours and challenges and therefore must parrot like a parrot but on a defined territory far away from the revolting touch of accusatory fingers of self-contradiction as an interventionist dramatist.

Though, there is a lull in the Niger Delta struggle presently. Are you not disturbed that the play might expose you to danger in the light of clarity of insights provided about the operational secrets of the militants?

The insights rather reinforce and authenticate the realistic picture artistically painted about the Niger Delta struggle and alert the government to the dangers of militarily engaging genuine freedom activists without justification because Egbesu, the invisible counselor but visible to the psychic, will always come to the aid of genuine activists when the circumstances demand it.

How did you research this story and what are the challenges that confronted you in the course of your research?

The intellectual struggle exists side by side with the armed struggle. Writers have their functions and armed activists have their functions too. I have always been part of the Niger Delta struggle intellectually and so I do not find it difficult to commit to paper what I have always been part of in my own territory where I earn a living.

Can we talk about Egbesu as a dramatic vision?

We cannot talk about Egbesu as a dramatic vision because I do not understand your anchor here. But to talk about Egbesu as the god that inspires the armed activists and guide them gingerly on mystically codified ethos of war to victory at war, I am prepared. However, you need to explain to me what you mean by talking about Egbesu as a dramatic vision because the picture of Egbesu created in THE WANTED MAN IN CAMP FOUR is the indivisible, inviolate, indestructible purified truth which is mystically verifiable if you have the corresponding psychic capability associated with mysticism.

What kind of mythological and cultural aesthetics do you intend to achieve by infusing the god head of Egbesu in your dramatic exploration of your struggle?

Egbesu is the god of just war that glories in destruction and construction. Egbesu does not take on destruction journey without a purpose; he travels only when justifiably provoked. Justifiable provocation strengthens the destructive capabilities of Egbesu but even at that, he is guided by the prospect of reconstruction which comes after the retreat of the howling wind of destruction.

Egbesu's dance of destruction is not limited to the oppressive institutions; his own worshippers or believers who violate the codes of conduct are correspondingly dealt with. Depending on the gravity of the contravention, the believers who go to war are either punished with death from the enemy's bullets or fractionally wounded.

For unfailing enjoyment of Egbesu's protective benediction at war, believers will have to embrace abstinence from women, stealing, lies, dishonesty, murder, bloodletting and any kind of vices. With the infusion of Egbesu into my play, the public is awakened to the fact that Egbesu is a god of virtue, a god of just war, a god of truth, a god that destroys to rebuild and reconstruct, a god of justice that punishes justly, a god that inspires activists to effect positive change in the society, a god that is non-discriminatory in the apportioning of blame, a god that rescues oppressed people from suffocating claws of dictatorship.

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